Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

8.  Memorandum from Rethink (previously known as the National Schizophrenia Fellowship)

  Thank you for contacting Rethink about this important issue. Rethink, previously known as the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, is a charity dedicated to improving the lives of everyone affected by severe mental illness.

  Rethink has been following the progress of the Government's review of the mental health legislation since it began and has a number of very serious concerns about the content of the draft bill. We are aware that the purpose of the legislation is to justify interference with the civil liberties of people with mental disorder in certain circumstances, and we are also aware that civil servants in the Department of Health have taken advice from lawyers specialising in the human rights field about some of the proposed changes. Should the proposed bill be enacted, Rethink will watch its effects closely and draw attention to any breaches of the human rights of people who are affected by the Act.

  We have looked carefully at the provisions of the draft Bill which directly affect the families of those who are likely to be patients under the Act, in particular Part 2 Chapter 1 section 8—"Careers: consultation requirements in Part 2." It appears to us that the effect of this section is that a patient would be able to prevent consultation with the carer even if his or her judgment is severely affected by the symptoms of mental illness. In Rethink's experience, it is common for detained patients suffering from paranoia to become hostile to those who are caring for them, often blaming them for the loss of their liberty, and therefore to require that information is not shared with them. As a result, carers providing substantial support over long periods, perhaps in their own home, who have vital information about previous episodes of illness, including the response to various treatments, and of the patient's views and preferences when well, would be excluded from playing any part in vital decisions. These decisions would include the imposition of compulsion, the nature of the care plan, and the appointment of the Nominated Person. It appears that a patient could be discharged back into someone's care without any notification of the patient's discharge.

  Rethink has serious doubts as to whether these proposed arrangements are compatible with Article 8, the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life.'

  We believe that the Government should proceed with the mental incapacity legislation as described in the report "Making Decisions", before proceeding with the draft mental health bill. We hope that this would facilitate a consistent and coherent approach to the subject of mental incapacity.

19 July 2002

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